Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. This is not only a family event but friends can also come together for a special meal.
The ingredients usually consist of turkey with stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and vegetables, followed by pumpkin pie.
So, that is the meal but what is Thanksgiving all about?
Please watch this!
Before you continue reading this post you may wish to watch this 3-minute video produced by The History Channel. It tells the story of Thanksgiving through children.
It’s definitely worth watching!
Credit: The History Channel
Thanksgiving Day (Canada) – 2nd Monday of October
Blackout Wednesday (US) – Day before Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day (US/Puerto Rico) – 4th Thursday of November
Black Friday (US) – Day after Thanksgiving Day
American Indian Heritage Day (US) – Day after Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day (Liberia) – 1st Thursday of November
Thanksgiving Day (Australia – Norfolk Island) – Last Wednesday of November
After reading this informative post why not head on over to Wikipedia.
There you will find further details as to the origins, the history and what customs are shared by other countries around the world.
Celebrated All Over The World!
Thanksgiving is a special day of the year where Americans give thanks for what they have.
They share this time with friends and families and share a good meal.
Thanksgiving is also observed by Canadians on the second Monday in October.
In Liberia, it is celebrated on the first Thursday in November, and on Norfolk Island in Australia, it is held on the last Wednesday in November.
For me, as a genealogist, I like to attend any moment such as this with my family.
I am grateful not only for them but also for the family that has preceded me.
If it wasn’t for them then there wouldn’t be me. And obviously, if it wasn’t for your ancestors there wouldn’t be you.
What Happens on Thanksgiving Day?
The homeless and poor are also thought of during this time. There are annual food drives held which collect non-perishable food.
Volunteers also give Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of people, all thanks to The Salvation Army.
Parades, football matches, and shopping!
Not only do people enjoy a meal with the ones that they love but also there are Thanksgiving parades held all over the United States. These sometimes occur on the day itself or before it.
These parades also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season.
During the parades, you see many colorful floats, large balloons of cartoon characters, marching bands, and also TV personalities who will also make an appearance.
These parades are also televised.
What to expect!
As many people will commute during these holidays a four-day weekend is usually observed.
Most businesses will also be closed during this day, as well as schools and government buildings.
Public transport will run but less regular service is offered.
As well as the general public most businesses and governments will allow their staff to have a four-day weekend as well.
Due to the high number of people traveling during this time the roads can be quite congestive.
The day before Thanksgiving Day is dubbed Blackout Wednesday. It is also busy then as many bars and clubs are open to travelers who are getting together with family and old acquaintances.
Parades and football games also put a burden on the roads.
The day after Thanksgiving can also be busy as well as there are many shops open on this day. It is commonly referred to as Black Friday.
The National Turkey Federation since 1947 would present the president with one live turkey and two dressed ones.
It wasn’t until John F Kennedy that a turkey was spared as he did not want to eat it. It has since been the custom to pardon a turkey from being killed and eaten on Thanksgiving.
Ronald Reagan was the first President to grant a presidential pardon. The turkey ended up at a petting zoo.
Origin of Thanksgiving
I have discussed what happens during the holidays that is known as Thanksgiving. But when was the first Thanksgiving and why did it begin?
Thanksgiving has been recognized as an annual holiday since 1863.
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed during the Civil War a national day, and to be held on the final Thursday of November.
Thanksgiving is more than 400 years old!
You may be surprised though that its origins are much further back than this.
It is believed that the very first Thanksgiving Day was held in El Paso, Texas in 1598.
A similar event was held in the Virginia Colony in 1619.
A couple of years later in 1621 Pilgrims held a harvest celebration. These Pilgrims were early European settlers who came to North America and settled at Plymouth.
This harvest was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims, and was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
However, this was not their first true thanksgiving as it was not until 1623 when they thanked for the rains that ended the drought.
Rather than a meal or a feast, thanks were given during a church service. But this was the start of the Thanksgiving that we all know of today.
More than one Thanksgiving a year?!
Later during the 1600s thanksgiving became more common and so started to be an annual event. But over the United States different days we observed in different communities.
And some places may have more than one thanksgivings during the year.
There can only be one!
During the time of the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Congress appointed may be more than one day to celebrate thanksgiving.
They also noted which dates States should observe this during the year.
It was not until the first president, George Washington, in 1789 proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day.
The modern traditions of Thanksgiving that we all know today such as feasts and football matches come from the latter half of the 19th Century.
Church services were still being held followed by feasts. Football matches were also being played by high school rivals.
Finally a date was set!
Typically though Thanksgiving was held on the final Thursday of November. But in 1939 there were five Thursdays in November.
So, it was declared that Thanksgiving would take place on the last but one Thursday.
It is believed that President Franklin D Roosevelt declared this date to give merchants more time to sell their goods in the lead-up to Christmas.
This was during a time known as The Great Depression in the States where many people lost their businesses.
This longer period would them increase the profits and help bring the country out of the depression.
The Senate in December 1941 amended when Thanksgiving should be observed.
However, some states several years after this continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last and not the fourth Thursday.
Texas even did so as late as 1956.
Controversy of Thanksgiving
The festive spirit of Thanksgiving is unfortunately not shared by everyone though. Since 1970 a group of Native Americans, together with their supporters, have held a protest and demand a National Day of Mourning.
This is conducted at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and is always performed on Thanksgiving Day.
Celebrating Native American heritage!
Native Americans celebrate their heritage on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day.
They celebrate American Indian Heritage Day and honor the contributions that Native Americans have made to the United States.
Their culture and heritage is also recognized during this time.
It is a protest as it is felt by some that Americans have forgotten the lives and cultures that were lost during the time of the early settlers.
It is felt that the bloodied past has been glossed over.
The past should not be forgotten and we should all remember what once happened and be thankful for everyone and everything that has made us who we’re are today.
My Final Thoughts
Even though controversy may surround Thanksgiving it is still a special time for Americans to spend time together and give thanks.
We are all grateful for the people and opportunities that have come into our lives. From our parents, siblings, uncles, and aunts, to our neighbors and friends.
They have all made us who we are today.
We are grateful to them!
The people and the opportunities!
But as I have said we are not only grateful for the people that have come into our lives but also the opportunities.
Whether it is a new job that has come our way or it may even be a new outlook on life.
We must seize the opportunities that come our way.
I cherish moments like this where I can spend time with my family and friends.
They don’t come around as often as we would like them to.
Discover your ancestry!
Times like I can spend asking relatives questions about my ancestors and learn more about my heritage.
It’s a great opportunity as it were to do more of our genealogy research.
We all want to know about our ancestry and gatherings like this can help us learn more about our roots.
So, when you next meet up with your relatives during Thanksgiving or any other holiday for that matter give thanks to the people around you.
And also ask about your ancestry. You may be surprised as to what you may hear.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this article regarding what is Thanksgiving all about. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.